Tuesday 16 July 2019

How middle earners are still paying for the crash

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Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Ten years after the financial crash, middle-income earners continue to be pounded by austerity.

A toxic combination of elevated income taxes, the universal social charge (USC), higher VAT rates, a raft of levies and charges, and the loss of valuable tax reliefs is hitting households hard.

It is estimated that a family on an average income is paying an extra €3,000 a year in such costs, compared with a decade ago.

This is despite the effect of recent Budgets, which have eased the burden on taxpayers.

The poisonous legacy of the austerity Budgets has left households on the average household income of €55,000 worse off by €1,500 from income tax, USC and PRSI (pay-related social insurance) changes alone.


Income taxes and PRSI are now so high that they make up nearly half of all taxes paid in the State.

The "lost decade" has cost householders dearly in other ways too.

Property taxes, a massive rise in the standard value added tax (VAT) and the loss of value tax reliefs - such as mortgage interest relief for many and restrictions on health insurance relief - are proving a huge burden.

This is costing the average family another €1,000.

A string of levies and charges are also hitting families.

These include the impact of the now removed pensions levy on private sector workers, the insurance levies, higher Dirt rates, and the higher PSO levy on electricity.

A typical family is being hit for €500 from these.

Most of the burden of returning the State to solvency continues to be landed on ordinary taxpayers.

And much of that impact falls on the middle-income earners.

Some 85pc of income tax is paid by those earning middle and higher income, while a third of workers pay no income tax at all.

The Irish Tax Institute said the State tax-raising system is skewed towards income tax.

Income tax and the universal social charge represent 40pc of all taxes raised, excluding PRSI.

This compares with just 16pc of all tax income coming from corporate tax.

And workers at every earnings level are paying more tax than before the crash, regardless of what they earn, according to research by the Irish Tax Institute.

Brian Keegan, the director of taxation at Chartered Accountants Ireland, said income tax payers were now the big funders of the State.

"Over the past 10 years, the big shift in the tax take has been away from capital taxes and VAT and over to income tax on individuals," said Mr Keegan

"A big part of the shift is due to the property crash.

"Falling asset values meant that the big contributions to the Exchequer from stamp duties and capital gains tax evaporated. Income tax and USC have been making up the shortfall ever since."

The Irish Tax Institute has calculated that workers will pay €21.4bn in income tax this year, compared with €13.6bn before the crash.

Much of this rise has come from the universal social charge, the emergency measure that has remained in force despite the ending of the financial crisis it was designed to tackle.

Irish Independent

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